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SC House OKs Constitutional Convention Call

 Bill Taylor Russell Fry Constitutional Convention 05-11-21
Jeffrey Collins/AP
South Carolina Rep. Bill Taylor, left, R-Aiken, and Rep. Russell Fry, right, R-Surfside Beach, discuss their strategy for a bill that would call for a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. Supporters said South Carolina would be the 16th of the 34 states needed to call the convention. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The state House approved Tuesday a proposal that would add South Carolina to a list of states calling for a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The proposal passed 66-42. It would have South Carolina limit its call for the convention to a few items — spending checks on the federal government, limiting the federal government’s jurisdiction and power, and setting term limits for Congress.

A group of a few dozen enthusiastic supporters waved signs at cars as they entered the Statehouse garage and then settled into the second floor lobby for several hours of debate Tuesday.

Rep. Bill Taylor, who has pushed for the proposal for years, told members they have the power to change Washington, D.C., by voting for the resolution.

“They will never, ever, ever limit their own power,” the Aiken Republican said of the federal government. “It’s human nature.”

The resolution is now sent to the Senate. With two days left in the session there isn't enough time for senators to take it up, but it will be waiting for them when they return in 2022.

About 15 states have passed similar resolutions, and the Constitution requires two-thirds of states, or 34, to call for the convention before it could occur. Supporters have pointed out whatever amendments are suggested by the convention would have to be passed by three-fourths of the states — 38 legislatures or special conventions.

“Calling the convention is only the first step,” said Rep. Weston Newton, a Republican from Bluffton.

The only convention called in nearly 250 years of the nation so far — the one that wrote the current Constitution from scratch — was initially proposed just to make changes to the original government charter of the U.S., the Articles of Confederation.

Supporters of the proposal barely pushed aside an amendment that would have had the resolution last for just two years. They said it would have killed the proposal because backers could never get to 34 states in that short of a time. Instead, the resolution was limited to 10 years.

Democrats and several Republicans opposed the constitutional convention proposal.

Democrats said there was no way to protect amendments that provided the rights to free speech, the prohibition of slavery and the guarantee of full citizenship and rights to anyone born in the country.

"You cannot limit the scope of a constitutional convention. Everything is on the table," said Rep. Cezar McKnight, a Democrat from Kingstree.

Some Republicans said the convention could alter the country in ways that the founding fathers would oppose, like revoking the Second Amendment assuring the right to bear arms or protections for practicing religion.

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking if we have a constitutional convention if will just be about a couple of conservative amendments," said Rep. John McCravy, a Republican from Greenwood. "Oh no — it can’t be limited.”


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.